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New Docs Show US Pressure on Allies Over Edward Snowden

© AFP 2021 / FREDERICK FLORIN NSA former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden is seen via live video link from Russia on a computer screen during a parliamentary hearing on the subject of "Improving the protection of whistleblowers", on June 23, 2015, at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg
NSA former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden is seen via live video link from Russia on a computer screen during a parliamentary hearing on the subject of Improving the protection of whistleblowers, on June 23, 2015, at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg - Sputnik International
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Newly revealed documents show how much pressure the US put on countries throughout Europe while attempting to track down and capture former CIA and NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden while he was on the run in 2013.

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Snowden fled the US in May 2013, leaving his job as a contractor for the CIA. He fled to Hong Kong, where he met journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill and spilled the beans on mass surveillance programs run by the US National Security Agency, as well as the UK's intelligence arm GCHQ.

The US immediately charged him under the Espionage Act and attempted to track Snowden down. On June 23 Snowden left Hong Kong on a flight to Moscow. The US had issued extradition papers for him to be returned from Hong Kong, but the Hong Kong government said the documents submitted by the US did not "fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law" and it had no legal basis to prevent him leaving.

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Snowden then lived in the transit lounge area at Sheremetyevo airport, Moscow while appealing for political asylum in various countries, including Ecuador, Bolivia, Russia, Norway and China. Meanwhile, the US annulled his passport forcing him to remain in the airport transit zone for weeks.

The amount of pressure exerted by the US on countries to get hold of Snowden is shown in documents seen by Norwegian broadcaster NRK. One note, dated June 27, 2013, reads: "We request that should US citizen Edward J. Snowden attempt to enter Norway through any means, the Government of Norway notify the Embassy immediately and effectuate the return of Mr. Snowden to the United States by way of denial of entry, deportation, expulsion or other lawful means."

The documents also show how desperate the US was to get hold of Snowden's computer and associated equipment. "The Embassy requests the seizure of all articles acquired as a result of the offenses… This includes, but is not limited to, all computer devices, electronic storage devices and other sorts of electronic media," the documents show.

Snowden's legal adviser Ben Wizner told NRK:

"I have not seen these documents before. I am aware that they exist in some countries — for example Germany."

In the end, Snowden's request for asylum was turned down by Norway and Snowden was eventually allowed out of the Moscow airport and given temporary asylum in Russia.

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